Monday, August 29, 2011

America, I miss you

“We can joke about this on Monday morning, but until then it is a matter of life and death."
-Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City (about Hurricane Irene)

Frank Bruni describes the problem in his New York Times Sunday Review piece, The Fall This Summer. When I left America in early February, unemployment was already high and the horsemen of the Apocalypse were trotting into view, but I told people I was going to China because I wanted to learn the language of a future superpower and see the "waking green dragon" rising like a phoenix.

Now, some six and a half months later just nine days from my thirty-eighth birthday,* I am afraid that the phoenixes have come home to roost. America has lost its way. My beloved New Hampshire has turned its state government into a cruel joke where cigarette taxes are reduced and money is taken away from clinics and lawyers for the poor.

My mother--and, at least as frequently, my father--and I misunderstand each other quite often. We vote for different parties; have different ideas about the role of government. We all love America deeply. My mother--of Pilgrim stock and descended from Revolutionary War officers--has an abiding pride in our democracy, but she said admitted to me last week that she has stopped reading the newspapers, that the culture and economy seem to be going down hill.

About a month ago I said to my father, if you don't solve your debt ceiling problem we are going to be in big trouble and a laughingstock of the world. "It is embarrassing."

He roared, "They are your Congressmen just as much as mine" objecting to my use of the second person plural. He was right, I was trying to distance myself from Obama and Jeanne Shaheen for whom I voted and from Charlie Bass and Kelly Ayotte for whom I did not vote. Michelle Bachman, Mitt Romney, and Rick Perry are not my cup of tea.

Even the one candidate whom I do like and whom I do think could restore America's glory, John Huntsman, embarrasses me. He left his post as Ambassador to China--our greatest partner and greatest threat--to challenge his boss for the Presidency. It speaks volumes to the colossal failures of the spineless, spoon full of Hope, Ivy Leaguer and pawn of BoA-Buffet-Wall Street who is supposed to be running our country from the windy shores of the Vineyard, but the Huntsman candidacy is also all so unseemly. How can I--a proud expatriate, but not an ex-patriot--explain, with my head held high, that the man who represents my Party, who last week dispatched his gaffey Vice-President to one-child (er, one-party) China, has a Judas in his ranks? In a country somewhat content with one party domination, should I extoll the virtues of the two party system and highlight Hunstman's decision to run as what makes our democracy great?

Frank Bruni implies the fundamental question with his quotation of PA Gov. Ed Rendell, which I will paraphrase as, "Where are my fucking choo-choos?" Have we failed to seriously address the jobs crisis? You bet. Our national imagination seems to have shriveled like a raisin. Burning Man is the best we can do. Have we failed to take the big steps down the new roads of the future? Are 63,000 jobs making batteries the future or have we walked away from 6.3 million jobs making a high-speed railroad and improving the efficiency of our building stock? I am afraid the answer might be yes. Furthermore, I agree vehemently with my old friend and fellow writer, Dean Baker, that President Obama has abandoned evidence-based economics to return the US to growth in favor of the politics of deficit-cutting.

Paul Krugman's name alone is bad for my father's blood pressure, but to me, who has not spent a day working in the mutual fund business, Krugmanmakes more sense than most. The Administration, according to my friend Arnie Arnesen, is struggling to get the Princeton Nobel Laureate's byline off the op-ed pages of the Old Grey Lady. Instead, they ought to be replacing the Larry Summers proteges with Krugman-ites and taking some of his advice. See Bernake's Perry Problem for a synopsis of what is so screwed up in America. I welcome your comments. I know it has been a while since my last post.



*Yes, I know how old  am. In China, you are one when you are born!)